Truth Of Life: [1.5] Ishwara - 05 - Living With Old Age

Published: 25.05.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

The Art & Science Of Living

Chapter 1. 

Ishwara: Friendliness


Living With Old Age

[Decaying of our energy and the power of senses is old age. Old age may bring stiffness of body and thoughts. One can live happily in advanced age by being liberal and generous, having control over the senses, a restricted diet, a tension-free and positive attitude. This can be developed through meditation.]

The teacher asked the student, "What is the easiest thing which occurs with least efforts?" The student spontaneously replied, "To fail in exams, this act is the easiest. One does not have to do anything to fail." In our life, the unavoidable thing is old age. Old age is never desired or sought by anyone, it descends on its own without anyone's asking. Old age does not start at the age of fifty, sixty or seventy but it starts at an early age, i.e., at the age of twenty itself. Actually we do not realise it but it starts at a much earlier age.

Ancient literature and the latest scientific discoveries have confirmed the fact that old age descends at a much earlier age. There is a reference in Acharang Sutra (a Jain canonical text) that old age descends through the senses. The power of the senses is youth and emaciation of this power is old age. Whenever the power of the senses start weakening old age has commenced. There are startling discoveries in the field of science that the power of the eyes starts weakening even at the age of ten and gets decayed considerably by the age of forty. The power of the ears starts reducing at the age of twenty. The power of the respiratory system starts weakening after fifty years of age, and the power of smell degenerates after the age of sixty. It is medically confirmed that old age starts affecting us even at the age of ten. It is also medically established that death starts right from the first moment of birth. The moment a child takes birth, he starts dying. We have to accept the harsh truth, which is not refutable even by the latest scientific and medical research that our death starts at the age of ten years, if not from the moment of birth.

Deprivation of energy and the power of the senses is old age. The foremost symptom of old age is stiffness, i.e., stiffness of our veins, bones and spine. In fact, the stiffness in our body is old age. As long as our bones and spine are flexible, old age has not descended on us fully. When our spine gets stiff then old age has commenced. It is not only the stiffness of the bones but also the stiffness of thoughts, which expedites old age. A person who is very adamant and obstinate becomes old early. An attitude of leniency and openness delays old age whereas obstinacy quickens old age. Old age has been considered one of the fourfold miseries of life. It is the root cause of our fear. Most people who took to asceticism and mysticism were deeply concerned to perceive grief and sadness in life. Budhha renounced worldly life and became an ascetic solely because of sadness in life. As a matter of fact, four types of grief have been highlighted, namely old age, disease, death and birth. It is quite evident that old age is unpleasant and troublesome. But religious people sought a solution that this grief can be transformed into happiness and it was not necessary that man should suffer helplessly. Transforming grief into happiness is a unique discovery. How to convert grief into happiness is an issue. Its first rule is the development of a lenient attitude sans obstinacy. When you establish friendliness with old age, it converts suffering into happiness.

Once a householder thought of searching for a Guru. He examined some people, but he did not accept anyone as his Guru. Then his wife said, "You better leave this job to me as you cannot do this." He handed over this task to his wife. His wife was very wise. She placed a crow inside a cage. Sadhus frequently visited her house. One day a sanyasi came and she offered alms gracefully and then said, "Kindly see how beautiful my swan is." The sanyasi looked and said, "This is not a swan, this is a black crow." Then the lady repeatedly said, "Sir, please see properly, this is my pet swan. "The sanyasi got annoyed, and then she said, "All right, sir, you may go now." Like this many sanyasis came and argued, got annoyed and went off in a huff but she did not get a Guru for her husband. One day an old, realised sanyasi came. The lady again repeated the same request, "Kindly see how beautiful my swan is." The sanyasi looked and said, "This is a crow not a swan; sister." She insisted, "Sir, kindly look carefully, clear your eyes and see, this is my pet swan." The sanyasi said, "This is not a swan but a crow." The lady argued, "No, sir, this is a swan, not a crow. Then the sanyasi said, "Well, no problem, everybody has his own view. In my view it is a crow but in your view it is a swan. But remember one thing, never insist on your view and do not become obstinate. You should be receptive and open to the quest for truth." After preaching this, the sanyasi left. The lady requested him, "Sir, please keep coming here." The sanyasi came to her house again. She called her husband and said, "This Sanyasi has the ability to become our Guru. We shall accept him as our Guru."

The man who is generous and keeps pursuing the search of truth without any arrogance is qualified to be a Guru. For those who have no arrogance, are not troubled even by old age.

The truth is that as man starts getting older, his arrogance escalates. Accordingly his conversation, attitude and views become unduly rigid along with the stiffness of his physical body. He does not want to drop his unreasonable convictions. He always underestimates others and claims that he is more rational and groomed. This type of attitude expedites old age and brings unhappiness in its wake.

The first solution to develop friendliness with old age is to be liberal and generous.

The second rule for friendliness with old age is the control over senses. Lack of control over the senses leads to the early onset of old age. The earlier onset of old age makes life unhappy. Eventually, such an old age turns out to be full of sufferings.

The third principle to forge friendliness with old age is the control of diet. One of the reasons for the quickening of old age is the scarcity of digestive fluids in our body. The quantum of digestive fluid reduces in our body on ageing. After the age of thirty, our bodily digestive fluids start diluting and reducing in quantity. It has been medically established that after the age of thirty our digestive fluids become less by half. Neither does the liver release the required quantity of digestive fluid nor do the pancreas, intestine, kidneys etc., work properly. They undergo wear and tear along with the increase in age, and their efficiency keeps going down accordingly. In that condition and age, digestive fluids are reduced whereas our meals generally become richer, which again invites an early old age due to multiple diseases. So it is quite imperative to review the quantity and quality of food after the age of forty. In fact, those who review their diet, and style of living after every ten years of their life have friendliness with old age. It is very important to change the diet pattern after forty years of age, and to keep varying the diet after every ten years to keep old age at bay. The man who does not care for the required dietary restrictions, and supplements his diet with fried and spicy food will face ill-health, and old age will set in with suffering.

The fourth principle is to remain tension free. The old age of the person who always remains tense is very unpleasant. Tension, anger, fear and lust make old age troublesome. The controlling power over the instincts weakens in old age as compared to the power one has as a youth. Tensions make the person angry and irritated. The general activity of the complete day becomes interfering in others' affairs, getting annoyed and excited frequently. Old age leads to lack of self-control, which makes a person unhappy and greedy. It is commonly observed that the youngster whose marriage is being solemnised is not really as bothered about dowry as his old grandfather, who remains busy and tense, making a long list of dowry items. Sometimes the youngster may refuse to accept the dowry but his grandfather will compel him. This is really astonishing since the grandfather has hardly anything to do with this affair and he is shortly destined to leave for his heavenly abode, still his greed is apparent.

Acharyashree preached to society that one should ideally change his life after the age of sixty years. In whichever way he has lived up to sixty years, nourished his family, built his house and done everything, after completing sixty years, he must change his lifestyle. Then the way of life should be more spiritualistic and less domestic. In India, a lifespan has been divided into four parts traditionally, the first 25 years for education, the next 25 years for domestic life, and the next 25 years for vanaprasth ashram, and after 75 years, the sanyas ashram (total renunciation). This is an old tradition, but there is a need to become free from domestic life. After the age of sixty, there should be a sincere attempt towards dedicating one's life to developing the spiritual assets of life. This is how friendliness with old age can be developed, and then there will be no anxiety, tension, burden of domestic life and official files, and consequently, the associated ailments like blood pressure, heart disease and cardiac arrest will be considerably minimised. In fact, man keeps on collecting means for happiness but unfortunately he does not know how to live happily.

It is said that honeybees are very stupid creatures because they toil hard and accumulate honey, which is actually consumed by someone else. But man is less wise than the honeybees. Honeybees collect honey but do not die unduly and untimely like man. This is the greatest irony that man gathers materials for his comforts and happiness but more often than not he dies miserably without enjoying those comforts. The person, who wants to be free from tension, truly establishes friendliness with old age and eventually his old age turns out to be pleasant. In fact, old age is not always destined to be unpleasant. Old age is a good, matured stage like a ripe fruit. An unripe fruit is sour but the ripe one is sweet. Old age is the sweetness and deliciousness of life. After experiencing nearly sixty to seventy years of an eventful life, a mature experience should not be sad. Though learned people have said that old age is unpleasant, probably they meant that those people have a troublesome old age and do not control their food and senses, remain tense and arrogant, whereas for those who are accommodating and generous, old age is pleasant. We have also observed that maturity generated by old age can never occur in youth. In youth, there is a different kind of madness and excitement but the old man becomes free from these propensities and can dive deeper to realise truth without any hurdles. The person who pursues a negative attitude cannot have friendliness with old age.

The fifth ideal to establish friendliness with old age is to develop a positive attitude and a constructive outlook. People gifted with a positive attitude can definitely be friendly with old age. Some people are very pessimistic, they think and act negatively.

A manager asked his peon, "If you take my place and position, then tell me what will be your first priority?" The peon replied that his foremost priority would be to remove his peon. This is a negative outlook. There are few people, who really think and act positively in their life. Our negative emotions are fear, hopelessness, anxiety, doubt and excitement. People nourishing these pessimistic emotions become old early. The scarcity of digestive fluid in the body renders a person old. The digestive fluid and the beating of the heart get disturbed under fear and anger, resulting in the weakening of lungs, which is a vast source of our strength. The stronger the lungs, the younger man will be. The spine, lungs and liver do most of the job in our body. We breathe in oxygen through our lungs. If they become weaker then less quantity of oxygen is supplied to bodily organs. Because of lack of oxygen, one grows older soon. Therefore the lungs, spine, liver and kidneys are vital organs in our body, whose health determines the growth of our old age. The sooner their power weakens, the sooner old age sets in. Then the whole life is spent unhappily. Actually our negative emotions weaken these organs. A very important tenet of Prekshadhyana is a positive attitude.

Modern biology also substantiates the claims that a healthy endocrine system is important for remaining young. Our frequent state is of excitement and negativism disrupts the functioning of the endocrine system. Activating the bliss centre makes the endocrine system automatically healthy. Generally we are inclined to practise the transformation of emotions but with the transformation of emotions (i.e., emotions of fear, anger, lust and hatred transformed into fearlessness, calmness, lustlessness and compassion) the health of our endocrine system automatically thrives. The man whose thyroid gland, which regulates the digestive system, is healthy will remain healthy for a long period and old age will descend late. Furthermore, his old age will never be troublesome. A weaker thyroid functioning leads to a troublesome old age.

Worries and anxieties affect our endocrine system adversely. Today, man has become very restless and anxious. Parents are responsible for quickening the ageing process in children by permitting them to watch television. Television addiction can take the children directly to old age.

Thousands of children in Britain are wearing spectacles because of overexposure of their eyes to television. They wish to watch it right from the morning itself. The cost of watching movies is that they neglect everything else. Television has become the ultimate reality for them. People are fascinated by television instead of meditating on Ishwara. Actually television spoils the eyes early and accelerates old age. Curiosity, restlessness and anxiousness disturb the functioning of the thyroid gland, which reduces the fluid secretions and leads to early old age.

The present atmosphere is not conducive for promoting friendliness with old age. People involved in the field of spirituality and meditation are expected to contemplate upon crucial needs to establish friendliness with old age. Today we have a live example of our spiritual master, who usually says, "I am seventy years young." It may sound strange as generally thirty years or so is considered young. Seventy years young is rarely heard of. Since our spiritual master says so then it has to be highly purposeful and meaningful. Some deeper sense is hidden in this, for he has learnt to live in a friendly manner with old age. The man having established friendliness with old age remains young, even at the age of eighty years or also ninety years. Those who do not have friendliness with old age become old at 40 years of age or even at 30 years of age. Our Acharyavar, even at the age of 70 years, has still the same vigour, vitality of senses, coherent thinking, perfect health and balance. A person holding the aforesaid virtues and qualities can maintain and continue friendliness with old age, and his old age is never burdensome and troublesome. Life sciences declare that the assimilating power of our mind is at its peak between the ages of 20 and 25. Then gradually with the increase of age, the grasping power of the mind keeps reducing. And at the age of 80 years again the grasping power becomes as that of a 12-year-old child. It is exactly like a Sutra of Sanskrit, "Old age again converted him into a child." There is a somewhat biological similarity between an old man and a child—the child has no teeth, the old man also has hardly any teeth. Those who do not establish friendliness with old age become childish, whereas those holding friendly terms with old age remain young and youthful. Remember that Prekshadhyana is the practice of liberality, generosity, diet control, becoming tension free and controlling the senses. Finally, it is the practice of escaping from negative emotions. The practice of Prekshadhyana helps in establishing friendliness with old age.

Edited by Muni Dulharaj
Copyright by Pathfinder Trust, New Delhi, India ©2001
Published by Sterling Publishers Pvt.Ltd., New Delhi, India
Translated by Pathfinder Trust, New Delhi, India
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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharang
  2. Anger
  3. Body
  4. Endocrine System
  5. Fear
  6. Fearlessness
  7. Greed
  8. Guru
  9. Meditation
  10. Prekshadhyana
  11. Sadhus
  12. Sanskrit
  13. Sanyasi
  14. Science
  15. Science Of Living
  16. Sutra
  17. The Quest For Truth
  18. Thyroid Gland
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